LONDON -- Marcus Edwards could make his Tottenham debut against Gillingham on Wednesday and, ahead of the match, Mauricio Pochettino has said the teenage prodigy is like a young Lionel Messi.
Tottenham and Pochettino have previously sought to play down expectations around Edwards, 17, who is widely regarded as the best young player in the country and signed a two-year contract in July, following interest from elsewhere and a tense standoff with the club.
But after admitting Edwards, who often trains with the first team, could be in the squad for the EFL Cup third-round match against the Gills, Pochettino made the surprising comparison.
"Well, Marcus Edwards, he is still 17 years old. The qualities... it's only looks, his body and the way that he plays, [we] remember a little bit from the beginning of Messi," the Spurs manager told a news conference on Tuesday.
Stylistically, there are similarities between the England youth international and Messi, who are both small, left-footed No. 10s, with a fondness for dribbling past opponents and the rare quality of appearing at one with the ball.
Pochettino's claim appeared to concern Tottenham's press team, however, and the manager, perhaps feeling the pressure, quickly changed tact and compared Edwards to Tottenham's own Argentina international instead.
"He's small, he's left-footed. OK, OK, remember a little bit [Erik] Lamela when he was at River Plate, remember he had long hair, when he was 14, 15 years old?" Pochettino continued.
"There are a lot of videos on YouTube that you can see, that he took the ball, didn't give a pass and shot straight away.
"[Edwards] is a very good prospect and potentially he can be a top player but we need to be patient and tell him that he has a lot of talent -- enough talent to be a top player, a great player -- but now it's how he builds his future. That's very important and it's our responsibility to tell him."
Edwards impressed in Spurs' preseason trip to Melbourne, catching the eye in the friendlies against Juventus and Atletico Madrid, but he is unlikely to start against Gillingham after playing 90 minutes for the under-23s on Monday.
Meanwhile, Pochettino was also effusive about U.S. youth international defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, another teenage product of Tottenham's academy who is expected to make his debut on Wednesday.
"I told you that, for me, he will be one of the best centre-backs in England in the future. He has a strong mentality, good quality and all the qualities for playing centre-back, Pochettino said.
"He is better than [I was]! I said one of the best centre-backs in England, and I wasn't one of the best in Spain."
Asked if Carter-Vickers would start the game, Pochettino smiled and said: "Maybe."
Shayon Harrison, the teenage forward who also impressed in Melbourne, is missing with a "small groin problem" but Harry Winks, Kieran Trippier, Tom Carroll and Joshua Onomah could all make their first starts of the season against the League One side.